Interdisciplinary University Seminars for Teachers, Spring 2013

The English Department at NEIU is offering a series of exciting seminars in literary and cultural studies to feed the intellectual hunger of teachers of English and other disciplines who seek professional development. Taught by NEIU English Department Faculty, these seminars are designed for teachers who want to explore new avenues in literary and cultural study as well as imagining new approaches to traditional literatures. The seminars are designed to spur intellectual growth by offering ways to re-invigorate classrooms in ways relevant to our contemporary world by creating content that engages students in the meaningfulness of literary and cultural studies.

These three-hour non-credit seminars earn teachers three CPDU credits. Our seminars take place on weekdays. Morning seminars provide light breakfast and lunch, and afternoon seminars provide lunch. Seminars are held on the NEIU campus. If a group of faculty would like alternate times, we are willing to work with you.

We are also available to teach seminars at your institution, to replicate these seminars should a group of faculty want to arrange an alternative date, or to develop seminars on topics in which your department might want instruction. Feel free to talk with us. We are very open to working with departments to meet your professional development needs

The Spring 2013 schedule is below. For more information, including registration information, please contact Tim Libretti, English Department Chair, at ; or access the registration website through the English Department page:
or directly:

Friday, February 15, 9:30 am-12:30 pm Differences within Difference: Teaching Cultural Difference Beyond Racial Representatives Taught by Professor Tim Libretti Register Online

Often efforts to honor diversity in the literature classroom or curriculum tend to treat individual literary works as somehow representative of the particular racial or ethnic identity group of the author. Such a tendency, often the result of limitations of space and time in the curricular or class context, obscures differences of gender, sexuality, and class within these racial identity groups, resulting in a misleading and homogenized representation of that group. In this seminar, focusing on short stories such as Alice Walker's "Everyday Use," Hisaye Yamamoto's "The Seventeen Syllables," and Leslie Marmon Silko's "Yellow Woman," among others, we will explore ways of teaching racial and ethnic literatures and issues of cultural difference that destabilize homogeneous constructions of racial and ethnic identities by focusing on the differences within rather than between racial and ethnic identities, arriving at a more complex conceptualizing of both aesthetic practice and literary identities.

Friday, March 1, 11:30 am-2:30 pm Confluent Tides of Swarm: Contemporary Poetry's "Woman-Voice" Taught by Olivia Cronk, MFA Register Online

Many readers of contemporary poetry are overwhelmed by the mass of texts with which to engage: the poetry world, contrary to alarmist rants, is more vibrant than ever. Small presses abound and thrive, schools and tastes evolve, and sub-groups continue to bifurcate and freshly emerge. Women's poetry, sometimes a nasty conceptual ghetto, is an exciting point on the graph. What does women's poetry look like in the midst of this poetry overload? How does it relate to Emily Dickinson, Mina Loy, Lorine Niedecker, and others? What do today's women poets reveal about our culture, feminism, group narrative, and poetics? What is poetry's "woman-voice"? This seminar will essay through a swarm of contemporary women poets, noting connections and possibilities.

Friday, March 15, 9:30 am-12:30 pm Globalizing Gatsby? Teaching Globalization in the High School Classroom Taught by Dr. Ryan Poll Register Online

In the past two decades, "globalization" has entered myriad discussions and discourses ranging from economic policies to corporate advertising. But what does it mean to re-think the high school classroom in relation to globalization? In this seminar, we will discuss competing theories of globalization that can be introduced to high school students, and together, we will study how canonical American literature becomes transformed when studied in conjunction with theories of globalization. In particular, we will analyze how F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby —a novel that has been analyzed in high school and college classrooms to the point of seeming exhaustion—becomes a new book when analyzed in relation to globalization studies. The seminar will conclude by discussing texts from multiple media (including film, music, and photography) that can be used in the classroom to catalyze students to think about the uneven and unequal social relations that constitute globalization.

Friday, April 19, 9:30 am-12:30 pm Issues in Teaching Developmental Writing Taught by Professor Marcia Buell Register Online

Developmental writers occupy a contested space in high school, college, and university settings in that they come to schools unprepared in academic literacies, but are often adept in other literate practices outside of classroom settings. Standardized assessments often point to severe deficits in grammatical and textual structure, but research shows that strict attention to formulaic writing and grammatical errors are ineffective in helping developmental writers find an academic voice. This seminar will address questions of defining developmental writers, assessing their needs and abilities, and designing class activities and assignments that can allow developmental writers to participate more fully in academic communities. Seminar time will be split between discussing issues in a few supplied readings and in creating and analyzing writing tasks to be used in developmental writing classes or classes mixed with developmental and more academically adept writers.

Friday, May 3, 9:30 am-12:30 pm Interrogating Asian American Literature Taught by Professor Tim Libretti Register Online

The sociological category "Asian America" encompasses a population of incredibly diverse national origins, including peoples of Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Laotian, and Indian descent, to name only a few. What does it mean to transpose this sociological category into a literary category that supposedly works to define a cohesive corpus of literary production? Focusing on short works by Carlos Bulosan, Hisaye Yamamoto, Amy Tan, N.V.M. Gonzalez, we will explore in this seminar the utility and meaning of the category "Asian American" and ways of approaching this literature pedagogically in ways that insist on specific historical and cultural contextualizations.

Seminars offered last Fall 2012

Our Fall 2013 schedule is in the process of development, but if you have an interest in past seminars we would be happy to offer any of them again.

Friday, October 19, 9:30 am-12:30 pm Environmental Refugees, the Graphic Novel, and Hurricane Katrina Taught by Dr. Ryan Poll

A recent United Nations report estimates that by mid-century, there will be more than 150 million "environmental refugees." In this seminar, we will theorize and historicize the term "environmental refugees" and ask what it means to read literature and analyze culture by means of this pressing category. More specifically, we will position the victims of Hurricane Katrina as environmental refugees and consider how graphic novels experiment with new forms to make legible and complicate the victims of ecological catastrophes.

Friday, November 2, 9:30 am-12:30 pm What's In a Name: Mistaking Comedy, History, and Tragedy in Shakespeare's Plays Taught by Professor Bradley Greenburg

How does genre work?Why should we care about genre? How can we use it in our teaching? This session on dramatic genre in the work of Shakespeare will explore how the conceptual use of genre can open avenues of understanding in the ways Shakespeare structures his plays. By contending that for the most part genre is commonly either misunderstood or ignored in Shakespeare's work, Professor Greenburg will offer readings of a number of plays that demonstrate how what appears to be a simple mode of categorization is actually a dynamic principle in the drama.

Friday, November 9, 9:30 am-12:30 pm A Brief, Wondrous History of US Latina/o Literature Taught by Professor Emily García

Inspired and informed by Junot Díaz's award-winning novel The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007), this seminar offers an introduction to the history of US Latina/o literature through a contemporary multicultural lens. Díaz's novel thinks of history inventively, bringing together sociopolitical events with personal revelation and urging readers to see the truth in telling. This approach to narration and to personal and cultural change is central to US Latina/o literature. The seminar will trace its appearance in Latina/o writing from the early national period to the twenty-first century. Readings (about 35 pps total) will include a chapter from Díaz, samples of early Latina/o writers from the sixteenth- through nineteenth-centuries, and excerpts from critics on Latina/o literature.

Friday, November 16, 12:30-3:30 pm Science Fiction and Fantasy in the High School Classroom Taught by Professor Thomas Hoberg

Good science fiction is a blend of social commentary and compelling writing artistry. And, to the surprise of some, so is Fantasy. Witness the spate of televised excursions into the world of werewolves and vampires in recent months. On the scientific side, a new subgenre christened :cyberpunk, looke to a future world in which computers play a large, and increasingly disquieting role (CF the "Matrix" series). The ideas expressed are sure to excite interest, and the caliber of writing can hold its own against the best of contemporary "mainstream" fiction.

Friday, November 30, 9:30 am-12:30 pm Social Class in the Classroom: Class and the "American" Self in U.S. Literature and Culture Taught by Professor Tim Libretti

In his book Working-Class Majority: America's Best Kept Secret , Michael Zweig argues that, despite the language we use to talk about class and identity and despite our avoidance as a culture of class issues, most Americans are in fact part of the working class. This seminar works with this premise and suggests that given that a chief objective of the humanities is to comprehend the human condition, in order to understand ourselves individually and collectively we must explore how class shapes human experience and by extension, as a key part of that experience, cultural production. Where do we see working-class identity represented in U.S. literature? How do class dynamics in literary study condition the way working-class literatures and lives have been valued in U.S. literary and cultural studies? Reading some short stories, poetry, and literary essays, we will explore in this seminar some examples of working-class literature and ways they can be used in the classroom to help students grapple with often unacknowledged dimensions of their own experience and the larger American experience and also to reflect on new ways of writing and valuing the stories they themselves and others tell.